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Poster: clementinescaboose Date: Aug 15, 2011 12:56am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

My experience with Phish is that I started getting into them around the same time as GD. At first I actually liked Phish better, believe it or not. I was really into them for about a year or two. Around this time I was relatively young (19-20) and smoking rather liberal amounts of marijuana. My musical tastes in retrospect I feel were somewhat "immature" in that I enjoyed Phish goofiness and nonsense lyrics. GD I didn't quite get on the same level that I currently do. But once they did click, I was obsessed.

Since I've been exposed to both bands immensely (though admittedly now I'm far more entrenched in the GD camp as far as knowledge and listening experience) Personally, I do hear a number of similarities in the bands' music. Where the similarities end is definitely with the songs. But more deeply, when it comes to the playing, I get a distinct emotional response when listening to a killer Grateful Dead jam that makes me think "wow, this is sooooooo incredible!" My endorphins are pumping and I get a natural high better than any weed could hope to bring me. I also become addicted to a certain jam, song, or era and want to hear every example of it that I can, good or bad. That *can* happen with Phish, but not as frequently or obsessively, and it doesn't bring me the level of joy that GD does. Someone mentioned in an earlier thread that Phish's jams have no "stickyness" to them, and I think thats a perfect description for me personally of why I don't dig them as much.

My question is that the main reason you don't resonate with Phish is because of the songs or the playing, or both? The songs is a given, they could never hope to be the gifted songwriters GD are. But when it comes to the playing, they do interact as musicians and solo and jam much in the same way as GD does. But their style is distinctly different. Is it the style of jamming that is unappealing, the sound of the band, or the jams themselves? I guess I'm raising more question than I'm answering here and I didn't address your fundamental one of why people are obsessed with them. I'm just trying to get a deeper understating of what exactly it is that is unappealing (not always easy to explain, I acknowledge) to maybe better explain what people do like about them.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 15, 2011 4:06am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

Aha … the “goofiness and nonsense lyrics” DO resonate for some people at a certain age in a certain generation … perhaps something about a post-60s world that’s more about going through the motions in college than Jack Kerouac/Wild West fantasies and expanding consciousness?

Hmmm. Why I don’t personally resonate? I haven’t listened to much; like I said, I get bored. But here goes. I’m afraid this WILL sound like Phish bashing, and I seriously don’t hate them, but I’ll try to encapsulate it. Since you asked :-)

Lyrics: I don’t think that weakness can be shrugged off by saying, "well, we can't expect them to be like Hunter." Sure. But still, what are the lyrics saying? What consciousness or world view do they express? I can like LOTS of different types of expression, from angry/sarcastic punk to simple unassuming love-these-mountains bluegrass, but, well, Phish seems to combine a self-focused “me me me” approach (an effort at self-revelation, but an uninteresting one IMO) with vague or half-baked thoughts, and that just bores me quickly. It seems insipid. Geez, the legend-oriented stuff is so lame and juvenile (Prince Caspian? Really?) and the drug references are also … well, lame and juvenile and mono-dimensional. Like people sitting around getting stoned and talking about how great the pot is. Zzzzzzz. Just IMO, of course.

What might be MOST interesting about the lyrics (in my totally limited experience) would be the way that specific tunes (like Waste) and even the general nonsensical-ness, seem to express a softer, sunnier version of Nirvana “oh well, whatever, nevermind” consciousness. Definitely post-60s; perhaps very generational. I don’t know if it would have attracted me if I’d been 18 in 2000. Can’t say. I always preferred edgy; the GD are quite edgy, in fact, and Phish doesn't seem to be, at least not to me. But maybe I'd have liked the community feeling and enjoyed the shows. And that's not irrelevant.

Singing: Not much character in the singing. Kinda bland and standard. The GD can be slammed for not having perfect vocals, but my gosh, they sure have feeling and character. Can't fault a band for singing the way they sing, but there's nothing to hold onto for me.

The jams: There are definitely jams that can grab me, and of course I appreciate that aspect. But it ultimately sort of floats away into the ether … it doesn’t feel rooted or soulful. Perhaps it’s more based in 70s rock rather than, say, going directly to old blues or bluegrass, and that’s why it feels ungrounded to me. And maybe they’re drawing on influences that don’t speak to me as much. I’m not a Zappa fan, for instance. So jam-wise, it's more like an "almost" than a "yes" ...




This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-08-15 11:06:40

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Poster: clementinescaboose Date: Aug 15, 2011 1:59pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

Thanks for the insight. Phish's singing I find to be incredibly weak. Their cover of The Beatles White Album is an exercise in butchering. I'm not going to sit here and say that the GD's singing is good exactly, but like you said, at least they try and have emotion.

The Phish Phans who try to find all this deep meaning and insight into their songs make me laugh. There are some very good and relatively meaningful Phish songs imo. I actually love Waste, my buddy used to play that one on guitar a lot in my Phish crazed days. Most of the Billy Breathes album has some of their best songs - sort of like Phish's half-hearted attempt at American Beauty.


To me though, the focus of their music really isn't songs or singing. The jamming I do find engaging at times, like I said. One thing about Phish is that they can really rock hard, I hate to admit, better than the GD, which is why I think a lot of folks of my gen prefer them; their heavier, and more accessible and immediate in this sense.

One of the biggest distinctions in the bands' jamming is Jerry, I think. Once I was tuned into his sensibilities, the Dead really started to take off for me. His unparalleled sense of melodic improvisation, phrasing, and creative flow of ideas make Trey's playing feel anemic by comparison. This is just part of why I think I find the Dead's jamming so addictive. I won't get into the rest of the band right now, (not that they don't deserve equal attention) but that is one major factor for me.

One other factor in Phish's playing style is that their ideas, especially in the earlier years, tend to jump around way too much. Rather than letting one idea progress to its full potential, they jump from one idea to the next in some sort of a.d.d. fit. Another reason i think GD's jams have a greater sense of flow and peak. Phish's pre-composed songs like Divided Sky or Fluffhead are played in much the same way from show to show (especially in the earlier years) for most of the song, which for me gets really repetitive and boring. I can't listen to 4 You Enjoy Myselfs in a row the way I can with Dark Star or the Other One.

Still, I do find that a number of times Phish and Trey pull of some very melodic jams that peak and flow. They can have sensibilities similar to that of the Dead in this sense also. There are Phish jams that I absolutely love. But rarely are there ones that I can't get enough of.

I don't mean this to be mostly negative. I do love Phish, and I love going to see them in concert - they rarely disappoint. The problem is I just love GD so, so much more. But part of why I think I do enjoy GD more I think is because I simply listen to them more! There is a mental bias that could be factored in, no doubt. I had already been planing this before this thread, but starting soon I'm going on a Phish Quest, so to speak. I'm taking a break from GD, who I've been listening to incessantly for the past two years, and I'm going to listen to a lot more Phish, to find out if this all really is in my head, or if GD genuinely is better. Don't worry though, I think I know the answer to that already ;-)

This post was modified by clementinescaboose on 2011-08-15 20:43:59

This post was modified by clementinescaboose on 2011-08-15 20:59:23

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Poster: wisconsindead Date: Aug 15, 2011 2:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

Nice post CC. especially this quote...

"Phish's pre-composed songs like Divided Sky or Fluffhead are played in much the same way from show to show (especially in the earlier years) for most of the song, which for me gets really repetitive and boring. I can't listen to 4 You Enjoy Myselfs in a row the way I can with Dark Star or the Other One."

This is so true. I recently had a discussion with my phish head friend and I felt that the dead could leave a song much easier and much more frequently than phish does. Using examples like YEM or divided sky. He said he thought phish could take a song way farther from what it is. He might be right, but they certainly seem to lack songs where each version is totally unique like DS or TOO.

You could almost think of DS or TOO as a read out from a seismometer (thingy that measures seismic activity, earthquakes). The greater the fluctuations the farther from the tune they are, or the concentrations of variations in jamming. DS and TOO frequently have a strong read out that is consistent where YEM usually has a small read out and sometimes a really big read out, when they leave the song completely. I hope someone gets that analogy hah

Also, While fishman (the drummer) is amazing at drums, robotically good at times, he seems to be too predictable. For listening to phish as little as I do, I seem to understand and predict where hes gonna go consistently. Its near impossible with the deads two drummers, and in the early 70's, billy's jazzy drumming style is just so amazing and equally hard to predict. He also tends to play really odd measures at times which make for fantastic grooves, like during TOO or DS.

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Poster: JihadOMuffin Date: Aug 15, 2011 4:21pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

I also have to add that Phish is a lot more funkier than the Dead.

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Poster: rastamon Date: Aug 15, 2011 5:03am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Comparing GD and Phish (Without Shooting Phish in a Barrel)?

the only way to know is to listen to the music play. For the novice, the Phish Live CD has many excellent jams and a few so-so (never really liked Wilson or Simple), At times they play incredible intricate music with ebb & flow...well, you just have to open yer ears & mind and listen.

At my 1st show in 97 I was amazed by all the older deadheads I saw there, some +50yrs old. After Jerry died the Phish and Dead scene seemed to merge into one. You just have to poke around, so start by pokin here (or not)>> http://www.livemusicblog.com/2010/07/23/phish-friday-15-must-hear-shows-for-any-phish-novice/

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